Lincoln County News | Newcastle, ME
Friday, May 22, 2015 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 140 Issue 21

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1/28/2014 11:45:00 AM
Newcastle Considers Solar Power

A solar-energy system soaks in sunlight at a Deer Ridge Apartments in Wiscasset. A similar system in Sheepscot could eventually provide the town of 

Newcastle with free electricity for all municipal buildings, according to a new report. (Photo courtesy Richard Simon)
A solar-energy system soaks in sunlight at a Deer Ridge Apartments in Wiscasset. A similar system in Sheepscot could eventually provide the town of Newcastle with free electricity for all municipal buildings, according to a new report. (Photo courtesy Richard Simon)
 
By J.W. Oliver

Updated Jan. 29 at 2:00 p.m.

A small solar farm in Sheepscot could eventually provide the town of Newcastle with free electricity for all municipal buildings, according to a new report.

The report by The Power Company, of Washington, Maine, proposes to install the farm in a field on town land. The property contains the Harriet Gertrude Bird Clubhouse, the Sheepscot fire station, a baseball field and a playground.

A field beyond the baseball outfield offers conditions "close to ideal" for a photovoltaic project, with plenty of sun and little shade, according to the Jan. 24 report.

The proximity of the baseball diamond could present a threat to the equipment "depending on the efficiency of the batters," according to the report. Options are available, however, to resolve the issue.

The report recommends three "dual-axis tracker systems" for the project. The "tracker systems" consist of solar panels or "modules" that will automatically rotate or "track" in the direction of sunlight. The modules would measure 3 feet by 6 feet and stand about 20 feet high.

The modules would produce electricity and feed the electricity into the Central Maine Power Company grid through the fire station.

The panels would generate an average of 33,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, almost identical to the approximately 33,400 necessary to power all town buildings.

The town would otherwise continue to pay about $4843 for the electricity at the present rate. The town would still have to purchase electricity for its streetlights.

The solar farm would generate most of its electricity during the summer, and the town would consume the resulting "credits" in the winter.

Solar energy also has environmental and social benefits, according to the report.

The report outlines options for the town to pay for such a system.

The Power Company could build the system and lease it to the town for five years while the company takes advantage of tax credits and other clean-energy incentives.

The town could then buy the system for about half its original cost of approximately $100,000. The report uses a buyout price of $51,000 for its calculations.

The town could pay cash for the buyout or take out a loan and make the loan payments with the money it saves on electricity.

The report estimates the lifespan of the equipment at 50 years.

The report concludes that a photovoltaic system "is both technically and economically feasible" for the town.

The project would need to pass site review by the Newcastle Planning Board and obtain a building permit from the town code enforcement officer.

A representative of The Power Company will attend the Monday, Feb. 10 meeting of the Newcastle Board of Selectmen to discuss the report. The town plans to invite its Harriet Gertrude Bird Playground Committee to attend the meeting.

Newcastle officials, along with The Power Company, also considered the old landfill on Jones Woods Road as a site for the project. The report identifies the Sheepscot property as the "most suitable location to investigate" as a home for the project. Richard Simon, of Newcastle, owns The Power Company.

The Newcastle project would be similar in terms of both cost and technology to a project Simon's company installed at Wiscasset's Deer Ridge Apartments in October 2013. The Wiscasset nonprofit Coastal Enterprises Inc. owns Deer Ridge, a low-income complex for senior citizens.





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